King's Cross Voices
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Alan Dein, King's Cross Voices Oral Historian, spoke with architectural historian Robert Thorne on 6th April, 2004. Among the several books Robert has authored is Change at King's Cross (London: Historical Publications, 1990), a book about the architecture of King's Cross which he co-authored with Michael Hunter. Robert and co-author Jack Simmons' book, St. Pancras Station has just been republished (Chichester: Phillmore 2003). Robert was born in 1945.

Robert Thorne
Robert Thorne in St. Pancras Chambers.
Photo Credit:Sarah Weal.

Duration: 3 minutes 05 Seconds. Size: 2.83mb

Alan Dein: I'm really keen to talk to you a little bit about King's Cross and what King's Cross means to you and you've immersed yourself into the history of King's Cross. And to kick off, I think I'd just like to ask you a bit about your own perceptions of King's Cross, when you first encountered the area.

Robert Thorne: I can be very precise about that actually because as a ... I was born in Derbyshire but my parents moved and lived in the London suburbs but we went back to Derbyshire every, my every school holidays so from a very early age my clearest memory was of catching the 2:25 from St. Pancras to Derby and an even more vivid so memory was of first of all of arriving at St. Pancras and secondly looking ... going to the end of the platform and looking out past the gas holders to the trees of St. Pancras Churchyard and being completely convinced and no one disabused me of this, that in fact that was the countryside and that therefore the moment the train left St. Pancras we were already on holiday and were in the countryside and it was this bizarre effect of this huge piece of railway infrastructure which led immediately into the country and of course that effect has remained really until about a year ago. Yes. I'm afraid it's now ... you cannot really get it anymore.

Alan Dein: Could you give me sort of a description of that St. Pancras, your memories, what it looked like, the atmosphere, the smells, the faces, just get a feeling of what you saw as a youngster.

Robert Thorne: As, you know, we are talking here about you know here someone age between 4 and 8 or so, so what I was seeing was, and smelling, were maroon compartmented railway carriages which had that very particular smell of coal and smoke about them, of steam and of course St. Pancras although it was and is an amazing space, it was in my childhood memories, it was full of activity, I mean the trains for instance were, all of them, pushed out of the station as we as pulled and had banking engines so that when we started off into the countryside there was this tremendous racket as the banking engine pushed the Manchester train out of the station. It was extraordinary.


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ай2004 King's Cross Voices Oral History Project